Two Hours in Nice (See How Nice it is)

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Got two hours in Nice?

Have a Nice day!

"with two hours in Nice, visit the Statue of Apollo looking over Blvd Massena in Nice"

Statue of Apollo looking over Blvd Massena in Nice

The French Riviera is best understood not as a region or an area but as a single town, a thin coastal strip of settlements never more than a kilometre deep that is stretched out over a distance of 50 miles, like an extruded French version of Los Angeles.

With two hours in Nice, the capital of the French Riviera, you can even play the game “which is which” – with Monaco standing in for Beverly Hills, Cannes rivalling Hollywood in movie star glamour and Menton probably coming closest to the more charming LA neigbourhoods such as Santa Monica or Venice.

And Nice, the largest town on the Côte d’Azur, would undoubtedly be the equivalent of downtown L.A.

If you are an American, you would probably find nothing strange about visiting the French Riviera without going to see its “capital” at least once. I have a friend who lived in LA for five years and had never once been to the downtown area. For Europeans like me, that is a strange, strange thought.

So we did go to Nice for a day-trip, and so should you if you can.

There are more glamorous towns along the coast, cuter ones too, but few that put all the things that make the French Riviera so great into a single, tight package: urbanity, openness, glamour, beaches. Nice has got it all.

Start at the train station, cross the road and head straight down the Avenue Durante to the beach promenade, ……

"Negresco hotel along the Promenande des Anglais in Nice during a two hour in Nice stay"

… the Promenade des Anglais, probably the most famous street along the Côte d’Azur. Take a brief turn to the right for a look at the Hotel Negresco and its famous pink cupola, rumoured to have been modelled after, ahem, les gazongas  of the architect’s mistress (oh, the Belle Epoque!)…

"Palais de la Mediterannee in Nice"

… and the equally splendid Hotel Maison de la Mediterranee before turning back along the coast in the direction of the Old Town.

Key sites include the magnificent Opera on Rue Saint Francois de Paule …

"View the Opera House with two hours in Nice"

… the Cours Saleya with its daily markets of flowers and antiques …

"A visit to the street market for flowers and antiques with two hours in Nice"

… and the atmospheric Place du Palais with the Palais Rusca, one of the town’s most famous landmarks.

  "Palais Rusca in Nice"

Once you have explored the Old Town a little, it should be just about the right time for lunch. We suggest you go into one of the many shops that serve a local specialty called Socca, aromatic pancakes made from chickpea flour baked in a wood-fired oven. Served with nothing but a pinch of salt and pepper, it’s simply delicious.

If you have had any doubt as to whether Nice is an Italian town or not: Place Garibaldi with its colonnades and a statue of Italy’s national hero – who was actually born in Nice (when the town was still a part of Italy) –will provide you with all the evidence you need.

"Place Garibaldi with a statue in his honour in Nice"

Walk from here to the Place Massena, another of the city’s main squares …

… and finally down Avenue Jean Medecin, the city’s main shopping street, back to the train station.

Nice shopping street"

There are many sites for which you will not find the time within a two hour visit, such as the famous orthodox church (you will get a tempting glimpse when you depart or arrive by train), but you can always come back, of course. We know that we certainly will.

8 comments to Two Hours in Nice (See How Nice it is)

  • Interesting comparisons. Must say I much prefer Nice to LA. And Monaco to Beverly Hills.

  • Great photos and article. Jaume Plensa’s sitting statues in Place Masséna are even more impressive at night when they light up and glow from the inside. Too bad they haven’t been scrubbed in a while, they used to be bone-white. Thanks for the post.

  • Such a beautiful city! I’ve been there several times before, because my cousin lives in Cannes, next to Nice… and it is really true, Nice is really nice, because of the white stones of the beach, and the light blue water of the see, the mediterranean feeling of the people and the historical city… beautiful..

  • Nice really does look nice! If I were in the area I would visit Nice. Really like the architecture and the poles with people sitting on them.

  • Really enjoyable read about one of my favourite places to visit…something for everyone can be found in Nice.

  • I’ve never made it to Nice but it really does look very nice. Fantastic buildings and that food looks pretty scrummy too.

  • We were just talking about one iffy LA neighborhoud where we somehow erred into in our search for a Walmart, Inglewood, I think it was. When we told LA based friends, they were shocked to say the least that we ventured there. But we survived and are richer in experience for it.

  • Nice looks beautiful! I love the architecture on that opera house and Hotel Negresco. Those statues on top of the poles look intriguiung. Great parallels with LA. I went to college in LA and knew many people who passed by downtown LA but never ventured into the downtown area. It’s gotten a lot better but there are still some sketchy areas.

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